The requirement for the governing board of a maintained school to provide headteachers with a documented appraisal process is set out in ‘The Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012’ – this is also regularly referred to as the performance management process.

Performance management should be a confidential, supportive and developmental process designed to ensure that the headteacher has the skills and support needed to carry out their role effectively. The process should also ensure that the headteacher is able to continually improve and develop their professional practice.

Academies are free to determine their own headteacher performance management process, but may choose to follow the regulations set out for LA maintained schools.

This article is intended for the governing board of maintained schools.


Who can be involved in the performance management process?


Headteacher performance management is delegated by the governing board to a panel of governors, who are advised and supported by an independent external adviser. It is a requirement to have a minimum of two governors on the panel; however, it is useful to have an odd number in case of the need for a vote. A panel of three governors is common practice to also ensure that there are sufficient governors available to form an appeals panel if required.

The headteacher is entitled to indicate if they do not want a particular governor to be part of the panel, but must be able to give a specific reason for this request for consideration by the governing board.

It is usual that the chair of governors is included on the panel. The chair will normally be best placed to understand and support the work and, ultimately, the performance of the headteacher; but this is not a requirement and is the decision of the governing board. It is recommended that any governor sitting on the performance management panel has received appropriate training in the process.

It is not appropriate for staff governors to be included on the headteacher performance management panel or the headteacher’s pay panel.

Appointing an external adviser


It is a requirement, set out in The Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012, for the governing board to appoint an independent external adviser to support them through the performance management process. This appointment is a paid role.

There is no specific requirement as to who should be appointed in this role, but the governing board must be confident that the external adviser is:

  • Appropriately skilled, experienced and knowledgeable.
  • Able to analyse information.
  • Able to be objective.
  • Committed to confidentiality.
  • Sufficiently up-to-date with school improvement.
  • Up-to-date with the performance management process.
  • Proposing charges that do not exceed what is reasonable for the role or time involved.
  • Able to record the meeting in an articulate manner.
  • Able to support the governing board to provide effective challenge and support.

Professionals the governing board may consider appropriate to support as an external adviser may include:

  • The school’s previous LA school improvement partner (SIP).
  • An SIP not connected to the school.
  • A serving headteacher from another locality or one with no existing links to the school.
  • An education consultant.
  • A retired headteacher or SIP.

It is important to remember that this is the governing board’s appointment and, whilst seeking the view and opinion of the headteacher is recommended, it is not their decision to choose who is appointed to advise the governing board through their performance management. To avoid any conflicts of interest, it is important that the board appoints someone who has no direct or indirect relationship with the headteacher or the school.


The performance management process


The performance management process is a cycle which is normally carried out over the period of an academic year. Some schools may choose to carry out the headteacher’s performance management before the commencement of the teaching staff’s appraisal cycle, as objectives and targets for whole school improvement can be implemented across the whole teaching team, but this is the decision of individual governing boards.

The headteacher’s performance management should be carried out by 31 December of each academic year and any pay increment agreed by the pay panel should be back-dated to September of the same year.

The usual process is to hold an annual review and target-setting meeting during the Autumn term, and then at least one other review meeting during the course of the academic year. The external adviser is not required to attend mid-year review meetings, but can do if the governing board would benefit from their support and guidance.  

The annual performance management meeting will have two parts. The first part of the meeting will be a review of the previous years’ targets and the general performance of the school and the headteacher, e.g. taking into account pupil outcomes and the themes of staff and parent surveys. The headteacher will have submitted evidence to the external adviser and panel of governors ahead of the review meeting to demonstrate that they have met the previous year’s targets and objectives. This information may include the following:

  • Their job description
  • A copy of agreed performance management targets
  • The SDP
  • The school self-evaluation document
  • Copies of the LA adviser’s school improvement visit summary
  • Pupils’ outcome data
  • The school’s most recent Ofsted report, if applicable to the performance management cycle

The panel, guided by the external adviser, should use their knowledge and judgement of the school’s performance and the specific evidence provided by the headteacher to make a decision as to whether their objectives have been met.

If objectives have not been met, or are only partially met, the panel should seek to clearly understand the reasons for this and decide whether any mitigating circumstances or challenges are valid. If there are concerns identified about the headteacher’s performance, the panel should seek guidance from their HR adviser.

The second part of the meeting is to agree and set the headteacher’s objectives and targets for the upcoming academic year. The headteacher will normally propose targets based on their knowledge of the school’s current position and recent school self-evaluation. Objectives set should be based on the current school priorities, as set out in the SDP, but it is also important to consider including a target linked to the professional and personal development of the headteacher. It is usual that three or four objectives are set for the year ahead, and it is recommended that any training and development needs for the headteacher are determined and recorded as part of the process. The Ofsted ‘School inspection handbook’ (2018) makes clear that a headteacher’s performance objectives should not be aligned with the proportion of good or better teaching. Ofsted has no expectations regarding the content of a headteacher’s performance management or the process that governing boards implement.

The panel can use the DfE’s ‘National standards of excellence for headteachers’ (2015) when determining objectives for the year ahead and can be supported with this by the external adviser. The standards are not statutory and should not be used to assess the performance of the headteacher, but as an aspirational guide to the professional development of the headteacher and the continued development of the school. Objectives set should always be aspirational, achievable and meaningful.

There is no requirement for the headteacher’s performance management meeting to be clerked. The external adviser will produce a written report of the performance management meeting, setting out and evidencing whether the previous year’s objectives have been met, as well as recording the newly agreed objectives, success criteria and timescales for completion. This report will be sent to the headteacher and panel of governors for them to agree its factual accuracy. The report should be used as the basis for the mid-year review meeting to monitor progress towards the objectives and again at the end of year review to determine whether objectives have been met.


Link to pay progression


The headteacher performance management panel, with the assistance of the external adviser, will determine whether previous objectives have been met, establish evidence of governors monitoring progress towards the objectives throughout the year, the overall performance of the school and specific evidence provided by the headteacher; all of which will inform the decision as to whether objectives have been met.

Where the objectives have been met, the panel will make a decision on whether to recommend to the designated pay panel that the headteacher progresses up their salary scale. If the panel does not feel that the objectives have been securely met, there is the option to recommend that the headteacher remains on their current pay scale for a further appraisal cycle. It is not permitted that financial constraints be used as a determining factor when recommending pay progression for the headteacher.

It is not the role of the external adviser to make a recommendation or judgement on the pay progression of the headteacher.

The extent to which the headteacher can progress on their pay scale will be determined by the individual salary range of the school, as determined in the ‘School teachers’ pay and conditions document’ (STPCD).


Reporting to the governing board


Once the headteacher performance management panel have made their decision, they will need to make any recommendation for pay progression to the designated pay panel. The performance management panel, or a representative governor from the panel, will provide information to the pay panel on the process which has been followed and the evidence which had been used to reach any conclusions on pay progression. Considering guidance from the STPCD, the panel will make their recommendation, considering all evidence provided and whether to ratify the recommendation.

The headteacher performance management panel will inform the governing board that the appraisal cycle has been completed. This should be planned as an agenda item for the next full governing board meeting, following the performance management and pay panel meetings, so the completed process can be recorded in the minutes.

It is not recommended that any detailed information regarding evidence provided to either panel is given to the full board in case there is a requirement for an appeals panel to be formed. The headteacher’s objectives are confidential to the governor panel and the headteacher – these do not need to be reported to the governing board unless it has been agreed to do so.



DfE (2017) ‘Governance handbook’

DfE (2015) ‘National standards of excellence for headteachers’

Ofsted (2018) ‘School inspection handbook’

DfE (2017) ‘School teachers’ pay and conditions document 2017 and guidance on school teachers’ pay and conditions’

The Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012, SI 2012/115, regs 3 and 4